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    Tuesday, May 18, 2021

    The Future of the 500 Home Run Club, 2021 Edition

    We are very close to some upcoming batting milestones, and both of them are from the same person. Miguel Cabrera has had a very slow start in 2021, but with 489 home runs, 2881 hits, and at least two and half years under contract on a Tigers team that doesn’t expect to be competing any time soon, it seems safe to assume he’ll be given every opportunity to become the seventh member of the 3000 hit-500 homer club. He may even reach both of them this year, although it would take a bit of a rebound to pick up 119 more hits this year.

    As is the case when big milestones are imminent, I’ve seen people speculating about future members of the club, and a surprising number of them seem pessimistic about the future of both clubs. I could understand that about the 300 win club, but not either of the batting milestones. Sure, there aren’t many players on the immediate horizon, but both clubs have gone through lulls in new members before. You just have to be willing to look into the future a bit.

    Which is something I’ve done before! So I figured, it’s been a few years, why not update those numbers a little and look at how active players’ paces match up to the members of the club? For those who aren’t familiar with the last article, I used a process similar to my yearly Future Hall of Famer piece. I start by looking at how many homers each member of the 500 club had at each age, and marking the median totals (as well as a few others, like the first and third quartiles, and the lowest and second-lowest totals). Then, I see how many retired players in those ranges fell short, which allows me to see the percentage of that group that went on to make 500 homers.

    (To use made-up numbers for an example, say one quarter of the 500 club, or 7 players, had 100 homers by age 23, and half of the club had 50. If 10 players in history had 100 homers by that age, and 7 went on to 500 home runs overall, our odds for players with 100 homers by age 23 are 7 in 10, or 70%. And if 14 players fell between 50 and 99 homers, and 7 of those are the ones who went on to 500, then the odds for players in that quartile are 7 in 14, or 50%.)

    This should be a much better way to visualize which players are actually on-pace than basic active leaderboards (take, for instance, Robinson Cano, who is fourth place among active players with 334 dingers, but is also 38 years old and has roughly zero chance to stick around for another 166). Unfortunately, I couldn’t update my figures from last time due to changes to Baseball-Reference’s search tools, but these numbers are an estimate anyway, so they should be good enough for our purposes.

    Age 23: First Quartile-121 (80.00% of hitters with this many homers at this age go on to 500)
    Second Quartile-65 (21.43% of hitters between this mark and the aforementioned first quartile mark reached 500 homers)
    Third Quartile-39 (9.46%)
    Second Lowest-20 (2.39%)
    Lowest-19 (4.17%)

    There really are a ton of great young hitters right now. Ronald Acuña Jr. leads with way, and at 93, should hit his first hundred homer milestone by the end of the month. Bo Bichette, at 25 homers, should also move comfortably up the rankings as well before the season is over, although the injured Luis Robert (12 home runs) might not hit any of these marks. And although I can’t check these figures for 22-year-olds, there are plenty of great players in that age range who deserve recognition now (especially since this isn’t really a yearly feature), namely Juan Soto (72), Fernando Tatis Jr. (48), and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (35).

    Age 24: First Quartile-165 (87.50%)
    Second Quartile-84 (16.22%)
    Third Quartile-65 (14.89%)
    Second Lowest-49 (6.41%)
    Lowest-33 (0.78%)

    Rafael Devers feels older than 24 to me, but he leads this age bracket with 85 homers, putting him right around the borderline for the 500 Club median for the age. After him are Ozzie Albies (66) and Gleyber Torres (also 66, but about 100 fewer games played). It’s a bit of a drop from there to Yordan Álvarez at 35, but a full, healthy season from him could make up some ground. Keston Hiura (33) and Austin Riley (29) are also right around the low-end here.

    Age 25: First Quartile-201 (100%)
    Second Quartile-127 (21.43)
    Third Quartile-103 (26.92%)
    Second Lowest-93 (25.00%)
    Lowest-47 (0.45%)

    Cody Bellinger is our current youngest player over 100 home runs, and with 123, he should be able to pass the 500 Club median even accounting for setbacks. After him, Franmil Reyes (71) is a distant second place.

    Age 26: First Quartile-241 (100%)
    Second Quartile-157 (20.69%)
    Third Quartile-133 (36.84%)
    Second Lowest-117 (16.13%)
    Lowest-73 (0.65%)

    The next age bracket is a step back, with Carlos Correa (113) in the lead. His chances definitely aren’t zero, but it’s worth keeping in mind that Cal Ripken has more home runs than any other shortstop, and he still only made it to 431 (Ernie Banks did reach 500 homers, but he was moved off of short after 30 and finished with more games as a first baseman overall). Nomar Mazara (82) is in distant second, but Pete Alonso (75) probably has the best chances here.

    Age 27: First Quartile-275 (100%)
    Second Quartile-197 (30.00%)
    Third Quartile-171 (31.82%)
    Second Lowest-159 (38.46%)
    Lowest-95 (0.62%)

    Rougned Odor (150) and Francisco Lindor (141) lead the way, but what I was saying about shortstops goes for both of them as well (sure, Odor is a second baseman, but the all-time leader there is Jeff Kent at 377). Odor in particular is largely cruising on his early start; he hasn’t been an above-average hitter in half a decade. At this point, Joey Gallo (127 in ~300 fewer games than either of them) probably has a better chance than either of them, remote as that still is.

    Age 28: First Quartile-306 (100%)
    Second Quartile-228 (31.58%)
    Third Quartile-207 (38.89%)
    Second Lowest-180 (20.83%)
    Lowest-132 (1.12%)

    Our drought breaks in a big way, with Bryce Harper (239) already well ahead of the median and Manny Machado (228) right behind him. The odds at this level still aren’t overwhelming, even for above players above the median at this point, but ~1/3 chances for players under 30 are still nothing to sneeze at. I was a little surprised just how far behind them Mookie Betts was, with “just” 159 home runs, given how incredible his last few years have been.

    Age 29: First Quartile-342 (88.89%)
    Second Quartile-273 (50.00%)
    Third Quartile-235 (36.84%)
    Second Lowest-202 (17.24%)
    Lowest-155 (1.79%)

    Technically, no player is a sure thing to reach 500 home runs: just ask Andruw Jones, who was tied with Hank Aaron and Mel Ott through his age 29 season at 342. But you still have to feel pretty good about Mike Trout’s chances at a run to 500. With 310 as is, there’s even a chance he finishes the year at that 342 mark as well. After him, it’s a long way down to Eugenio Suarez (169) and Kris Bryant (152).

    Age 30: First Quartile-373 (100%)
    Second Quartile-309 (50.00%)
    Third Quartile-281 (53.85%)
    Second Lowest-236 (17.24%)
    Lowest-194 (1.79%)

    Nolan Arenado should easily pass the halfway mark sometime this year (244), but that still puts him behind pace. But with a strong finish, he should finish closer to that 281 cutoff that represents the third quartile, which would almost put him almost in coin flip territory. Sure, it’s still a while to go from there, but it’s by no means unthinkable either. After him, it’s Marcell Ozuna at 172, meaning he has a ways to go just to match that lowest mark.

    Age 31: First Quartile-403 (100%)
    Second Quartile-347 (54.55%)
    Third Quartile-313 (53.85%)
    Second Lowest-277 (25.00%)
    Lowest-233 (2.63%)

    From 2019 to 2020, his ages 29 and 30 seasons, Giancarlo Stanton hit just 7 homers in 41 games. Despite that poor luck and health, he still has 321 home runs, with a good chance to stay above the median. Obviously, his chances can’t stand another stretch like that going forward, but it’s a testament to just how good he was from 2010 to 2018 that he’s still this well-positioned for a run at 500. After him, reigning NL MVP Freddie Freeman just reached the halfway mark this year (251), and while not the most likely candidate, still can’t be totally ruled out.

    Age 32: First Quartile-445 (100%)
    Second Quartile-390 (75.00%)
    Third Quartile-344 (43.75%)
    Second Lowest-315 (41.67%)
    Lowest-271 (3.33%)

    Mike Moustakas leads this age group, but is yet to even reach 200 home runs (194).

    Age 33: First Quartile-477 (100%)
    Second Quartile-435 (85.71%)
    Third Quartile-370 (53.85%)
    Second Lowest-324 (20.83%)
    Lowest-314 (14.29%)

    Already this season, Justin Upton matched Rafael Palmeiro’s 314 total, while Paul Goldschmidt passed the halfway mark (255), and J.D. Martinez looks poised to join him soon (248). It’s hard to say any of them is a strong 500 candidate at this point.

    Age 34: First Quartile-505 (100%)
    Second Quartile-463 (85.71%)
    Third Quartile-404 (53.85%)
    Second Lowest-361 (35.71%)
    Lowest-337 (7.69%)

    Even at his peak, Andrew McCutchen wasn’t exactly a home run hitter, topping out at 31 in a season. He should reach the halfway mark this season (249), but that’s still obviously too far to go to make 500.

    Age 35: First Quartile-527 (100%)
    Second Quartile-494 (100%)
    Third Quartile-418 (42.86%)
    Second Lowest-398 (100%)
    Lowest-366 (5.88%)

    Evan Longoria is at least over 300 (308), but again, that’s too far to go.

    Age 36: First Quartile-563 (100%)
    Second Quartile-522 (100%)
    Third Quartile-447 (50.00%)
    Second Lowest-414 (55.56%)
    Lowest-394 (16.67%)

    Ryan Zimmerman is even further away, with 274 homers to his name.

    Age 37: First Quartile-587 (100%)
    Second Quartile-536 (100%)
    Third Quartile-474 (75.00%)
    Second Lowest-441 (45.45%)
    Lowest-418 (16.67%)

    Joey Votto just joined the 300 homer club this season. Not what we’re looking for, but still, good for him!

    Age 38: First Quartile-600 (100%)
    Second Quartile-542 (100%)
    Third Quartile-498 (100%)
    Second Lowest-458 (55.56%)
    Lowest-456 (100%)

    This is where the inspiration for this piece falls at the moment, with 489. For anyone feeling pessimistic about Cabrera’s chances still, it might be comforting to note that about a quarter of the 500 Club also hadn’t reached it yet, either. Meanwhile, of the six players with 456+ homers by this age who didn’t go on to 500, four of them (Lou Gehrig, Carlos Delgado, Adam Dunn, and Jose Canseco) were already out of the game (sometimes for multiple years) by their age 38 season. Only Fred McGriff (478) and Adrian Beltre (462) were still playing at this point and didn’t go the rest of the way.

    Age 39: First Quartile-589 (100%)
    Second Quartile-548 (100%)
    Third Quartile-511 (100%)
    Second Lowest-482 (71.43%)
    Lowest-479 (100%)

    Age 40: First Quartile-604 (100%)
    Second Quartile-548 (100%)
    Third Quartile-512 (100%)
    Second Lowest-501 (100%)
    Lowest-492 (33.33%)

    I’m not totally sure what to do with Nelson Cruz, who has 426 home runs at the moment. On the one hand, he’s way behind where any other past members of the club have been. On the other hand, his case is so unique that I don’t know how much to factor that into his chances. For example, he’s this close despite only having 22 homers going at the end of his age-27 season. And despite being 40, his shortened 2020 and still-in-progress 2021 season have totalled 25 homers, or a 46-home run pace over 162 games. He could drop off at any time still, and the missed games last year will hurt his chances, but I still don’t know that I would totally rule him out just yet, either.

    Age 41: First Quartile-609 (100%)
    Second Quartile-555 (100%)
    Third Quartile-520 (100%)
    Second Lowest-509 (100%)
    Lowest-504 (100%)

    We don’t really need to guess whether Albert Pujols will make it to 500 or not. On a related note though, for as weird as it was seeing him in an Angels uniform for a decade, it’s going to be even weirder seeing him with the Dodgers (especially since Corey Seager has his trademark #5; will he just wear something else, or somehow convince Seager to switch?*).

    *Pujols made his Dodgers debut as I was editing and posting this, so I can officially note that he is wearing #55, and it does in fact look weird.

    Just from skimming that, it appears we have something like eighteen or so players with at least a 10% chance. Only two of those have a better than even chance (Mike Trout and maybe Giancarlo Stanton), but really, I would bet there’s at least one other future 500 member in there as well. It reminds me of what I found in my study of Hall of Fame pitchers; the 30s will make or break players, but several players will be on track by that point to keep an eye on.

    To put another way, I know that all of Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Mookie Betts, Nolan Arenado, Cody Bellinger, and Ronald Acuña won’t make it to 500 homers, but they’re all where they need to be for now, and we only need one of those six to remain productive in their 30s to gain a new member of the 500 Club. Maybe the game shifts even harder away from any player above 32 in the coming years, but that remains to be seen. For now, it seems safe to say Miguel Cabrera will not be the last 500 home run player.

    Check back soon for a look at the Future of the 3000 Hit Club!

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